Brain Activity Helps Explain Diabetics' Negative Feelings, Risk for Depression

Posted on May 16, 2018

A new Iowa State University study suggests that negative feelings that people experience may stem from problems in regulating blood sugar levels that influence emotional response in the brain. The study found people with Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes were more likely to focus on and have a strong emotional response to threats and negative things, which affects quality of life and increases the risk for depression.

Auriel Willette, an ISU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, Tovah Wolf, lead author and a graduate student working with Willette on this project, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed data on startle response, brain activity, cortisol levels and cognitive assessment. Gauging the startle response allowed researchers to measure central nervous system activity using tiny electrodes. Study participants viewed a series of negative, positive and neutral images intended to elicit an emotional response. The electrodes captured the rate of flinch or startle, a contraction that cannot be controlled.

It was concluded that people with higher levels of insulin resistance were more startled by negative pictures. And therefore, by extension, they may be more reactive to negative things in life. The researchers say the evidence is even more compelling when combined with the results of tests recording activity when the brain is at rest. Study participants with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes had more activity on the right side of the brain, which is associated with depression and negative emotions.

Understanding the effect of these biological factors is an important step in helping improve the quality of life, especially of those who are obese or have diabetes. The risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses related to obesity is well known, but many people may not recognize how fluctuations in blood sugar can take a toll on them every day.


Source material from Science Daily

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